QT: Learn to Listen to Your Body (And Actually Understand What It’s Telling You!)


Stop me when this sounds familiar:

You need to listen to your body!

Fair enough. I have been known to preach the how important it is to listen to your body during your training, especially as it relates to preventing injury and staying healthy.

But one thing that I’ve often overlooked is the importance of being able to actually understand what your body is saying.

You can listen all you want, but if you don’t understand what you’re hearing it’s not going to do you any good!

Learn the Language Your Body Speaks

I realized during my chat with Jen Kirkpatrick that simply saying that you need to listen to your body isn’t enough.

While we were talking, she pointed out that it can be difficult to understand what your body is trying to tell you, especially for newer or less experienced runners.

If that’s the case, and the more I think about it the more I agree with Jen, the more important it becomes to learn to understand the language that your body speaks.

Some Things Your Body May Be Trying to Telling You

Obviously, every person is different. And as such, you will need to learn the specific dialect, slang, and accent that your body speaks to you.

That said, there are some fairly universal key words that will help you decipher what your body is saying.

Something’s Not Right

Our bodies, in most cases, give us a fair bit of warning before they break down.

Your body will try to tell you that something isn’t right. Learn to listen for that message.

That message can take on a few different forms, from tightness to discomfort to mild pain at the start of a run, but the key thing to remember is that if something doesn’t seem right to you it’s probably not right.

If you ignore the signals that something isn’t right and just keep on keeping on, in most cases the problem is going to get worse instead of better.

Lingering Soreness

After a good workout or race, there is a pretty good chance that you are going to feel sore for a day or few.

In and of itself, that soreness isn’t a problem. It’s a natural part of the recovery process after you push your limits.

But when you’re feeling sore after a hard effort, that is your body’s way of telling you to take it easy for the time being.

You can still do some easy cross-training, and maybe an easy few miles of running, but don’t push the intensity if you’re still sore for a recent race or workout.

Random Tightness

Simply from being active, your body is going to have cause to do some repair work at the cellular level.

No big deal in most cases. However, on occasion the repair work can lead to adhesions in the tissues of your muscles, tendons, and fascia, which often results in feeling tight.

Similar to feeling sore after a hard workout, a little feeling of tightness here and there isn’t abnormal nor particularly problematic.

Unless you ignore it.

If you’re feeling tight, that is a good reminder to stretch a bit. Get on the foam roller. Go get a massage.

That tightness is basically tension that has built up in your muscles, and if you don’t relieve the tension it can lead to a problem.

And that problem often ends in -itis.

Excessively Tired

During periods of heavy mileage, or periods of crazy life outside of your running, the fatigue can build up.

If you notice that you’re really tired, your body is telling you to give it a break.

Skip a run. Go to be early. Sacrifice a speed workout in the name of an easy few miles or a yoga session.

When you’re feeling tired and fatigued, it’s easy to develop bad habits and/or let your form falter which can easily lead to other injuries.

And even if it doesn’t lead to injury, continuing to train when you’re really tired is going to make your training less effective and diminish the results of your work.

Take Your Listening to the Next Level

One of the most important things that you can do when you’re learning to listen to your body is to reflect on previous conversations and learn from experience.

This is especially true after dealing with an injury.

In most cases, your body was trying to tell you something before you became injured and you simply missed the memo.

Maybe there was a little twinge you ignored or niggle that you thought wasn’t a big deal.

In hindsight, however, those may have been instances where your body was trying to tell you to something wasn’t right and your wires were crossed.

Learn from those instances.

There are going to be misunderstandings as you get more comfortable listening to your body, but the last thing you need/want is to have the same misunderstanding time after time.

Especially if said misunderstanding leads to injury.

Learning to listen to your body is very similar to learning to speak a new language.

There are going to be some misunderstandings along the way, but if you keep working at it you will become fluent before you know it.


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What Well Do You Do When It Comes to Listening to Your Body?

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